WHY BRITAIN WENT LEFT
A. Beverley Baxter, M.P.
In Maclean's of April 15 Baxter foresaw a Labor victory—now, with his prophecy true, he lists the reasons as he sees them
LONDON (By wireless) — Morning on Thursday, July 26, broke with pervading warmth and brilliant sunshine in the region of St. John’s Wood, London. I have no reason to doubt that it broke in much the same manner elsewhere, but long experience has taught me to be cautious.
There was considerable excitement in the Baxter household, for this was the day when Pandora’s box was to be opened and its secrets revealed. Eight or nine miles away, in the North London suburb of Wood Green, the counting of votes was to begin at nine o’clock, and this was of direct concern to the aforesaid family, for reasons which need no underlining.
Just before nine o’clock a friend of mine called up to say that Lloyd’s was offering four to one against a Socialist majority and three to one against the Conservatives having more than 50 majority. We did no business, however. It seemed probable at that moment that Lloyd’s had sized up the situation fairly accurately and did not need my money.
Now, while the family is getting ready to make the motor trip to Wood Green, 1 think this is a good moment for a personal explanation. Six months ago London was enlivened by the visit of several eminent Canadians, including Arthur Irwin, the managing editor of Maclean’s. One day, at his hotel, we were discussing the trend of British politics. I expressed the view that when the next election took place every Tory with less than 500 majority would be defeated. Mr. Irwin’s eyes opened very wide and he asked the reason for this pessimism.
“We have been virtually in power for 25 years, I answered. The country is tired of us. And we are putting our case badly. The Gollancz writers with their books: ‘Your M.P.,’ ‘Guilty Men,’‘Why Trust t he'Lories?’ and ‘Brendan and Beverley,’ have had it all their own way, and we have made no reply.” Irwin’s eyes being still open, he asked if the magic of Churchill’s name would not offset all this.
1 gave it as my opinion that it wasdoubtful. “He is 70 years of age, and I am not sure
that the gratitude of the nation to him as the Victor in War will make him the obvious choice as the Leader
Mr. Irwin sat up. “Will you dare write that for
Maclean’s?” he asked.
My answer was that I would write anything for Maclean’s which seemed to me to be the truth. That was the origin of the article, “Is Britain Going Left?” in the April 15 issue which literally went around the world.
Now, as the family are ready and it is 10.30, we shall start off for Wood Green. We shall also revert to the past tense as it is less involved.
The moment we entered the schoolhouse where the ballots were being counted 1 knew something had gone wrong. My supporters met me with long faces and broke the news that the score at that moment was 17,500 for the Socialist; 17,000 for myself and 9,000 for the Liberal.
If this was happening in North London, what was going on in the rest of the country? 1 went out to a call box on the street and telephoned the Daily Express.
“It is a landslide,” said the news editor. “Six ministers are out and the Socialists are winning everywhere.”
There was some consolation in the thought that I would not be the only Tory defeated, so back we went to the schoolroom, where things had taken a better turn. The Socialist rush had halted and the Tory was taking the lead, and then—bless the good burghers of Wood Green—the Tory began to draw away: 1,000—2,000—3,000. The Socialist candidate’s
shoulders slumped wearily. The Liberal forced a smile
to his face. Four thousand, 5,000—Now there was no doubt of the result. The Socialist made one last spurt, but it was no use. We were in by just under a 6,000 majority. I did not realize even then that London had turned heavily against the Conservatives; that all around us, except for the neighboring boroughs of Hornsey and Finchley, the strongholds of Conservatism were being engulfed. Ixmdon with its concentration of industry, London with its bombed areas, London with its human problems and fatigue, had declared against the old order. Even in wealthy areas the Socialist tide swept ominously close.
J suggest, in trying to discover the influences which brought about this tremendous change, one should start with the following historical note: “In the
British election of 1945 there were 10,000 men and women in Winston Churchill’s constituency who voted for an unknown freak candidate whose only platform
was a philosophical approach to world problems.”
I do not charge those 10,000 voters with any sinister purpose or even with dereliction of duty. They were free citizens of a free democracy and had every right to mark their ballot papers according to their conscience and what was left of their judgment. My purpose in singling them out is merely to strengthen my argument that the impulses which caused the electorate to hurl Churchill and the Tories into the discard and to return triumphant a Socialist Government were so complex and varied that a student of politics would do well to study the matter in all its aspects.
Here are a dozen factors which made this election a vote of frustration, a vote of exasperation, a vote of protest, a vote of fear, a vote of ingratitude, a vote of discouragement, a vote of blind hope, a vote of confidence by a section of the community in itself, and a vote of idealism.
1. The Conservative Party failed to put forward a mighty charter for the future, in which industry should have joined.
2. The country was not ungrateful to Mr. Churchill, but did not want him as leader of the Party which had kept him out of office for 10 years.
3. The Conservatives had been in power a long time and people thought it was time for a change.
4. The tendency of Churchill to be true to loyal friends in Europe, such as King George of Greece, frightened the timorous and shocked those who believe that loyalty to the individual, rather than to a principle, is out of date.
5. Soldiers voted against the War Office because of lack of leave. The ground staff of the Air Force voted against the Air Ministry out of a sense of inferiority and frustration. Sailors voted against the Admiralty because the Navy did not come under the general scheme of demobilization. Land Girls voted against the Treasury because they received no gratuity. Workers voted against the income tax.
6. Servicemen’s wives voted against the Minister of Works because of the housing problem.
7. Tired housewives voted against queues and the food shortage, clothing shortage and lack of babies’ ruober nipples.
8. A large proportion of the middle class voted Liberal because they resent Churchill’s Gestapo speech and because they were afraid the Socialists might take their liberty from them.
9. Young people voted against the Government because the Tories were in power before the war and had made no attempt to educate them to the blessings of Free Enterprise.
10. Old-age Pensioners voted against the Government because they hope to do better with the Socialists.
11. Millions of people who wept with joy when Chamberlain saved the world at Munich now had a chance to play the role of Pharisee, and they took it.
12. Great numbers voted against the Conservative Party because they believed the Tories were representatives of the privileged classes and not of the community as a whole.
I put down these 12 points with the detachment of the contemporary historian and not merely as a politician. My argument is that the election was not a clear mandate for any Party or any policy but a complicated vote against a sea of exasperations.
In claiming these things I do not deny there was a
solid Left Wing vote of immense proportions, exercised by men and women who profoundly believed the Labor Government would bring security and prosperity to the nation. The Socialists were loyal to their cause, their Party and their class. Nor did they doubt that they were being loyal to the nation. That in the process they dismissed Mr. Churchill with contumely is merely one more example of the fickleness of public enthusiasm.
Gratitude does not exist in the cruel profession of public service; the mob that cheers the nation’s savior is the same mob that stones him.
Today it is roses, roses all the way for Mr. Attlee. But tomorrow?
People cried, “Beveridge is our salvation!” and threw him out in the election.
Churchill warned the nation against the German menace, while Herbert Morrison did everything to keep us impotent. But now the crowd shouts, “Morrison forever!”
However, the people have spoken and they are masters. Therefore, under a democracy, it behooves us all to look at the future and see how the nation can assist the new Government in its heavy tasks. Failing the return of Churchill’s Government, with a majority of at least 100, it is better that the Socialists are actually in power, and with a majority so large that they will have no excuses, and will be able to develop their plans on sound lines without indulging in hysterical window dressing.
They start with the great advantage of possessing Ministers who served under Churchill and are no strangers to the problems and responsibilities of power.
Nor can it be denied that in Bevin, Attlee, Morrison, Greenwood, Alexander and Cripps they possess men of character and ability. In foreign affairs especially we need have no doubt that Bevin will speak with a strong voice. No Party has any proprietory rights on Patriotism and we believe the Government and its supporters genuinely desire to serve the country, improve its condition and enhance its prestige. What is more, it is the duty of all of us to assist them toward that accomplishment.
Note of Warning
BUT THERE we must utter a note of warning and it is a serious one. Attlee’s Government, in the flush of victory, will have to remember it is the servant, not the master, of the country. Already extremists are breathing fire against the House of Lords, warning peers that if they obstruct they will be destroyed or outvoted by a mass of newly created Socialist peers.
At what point does criticism become obstructive, and who is to decide? The active members of the House of Lords are men of great experience, who conduct their debates with discipline and responsibilities. Will it be enough for Mr. Michael Foot, young Labor pamphleteer, to rise in his place and shout, “Away with them!” for the House of Lords to be abolished? Will the House of Commons become like the Committee of Public Safety in the French Revolution, where to be accused was to be guilty?
Mr. Garry Allighan, newly elected Socialist M.P., writing in the Daily Mail, has warned employers and financiers generally that obstruction on their part will not be tolerated. It seems to me that our new servants are rattling the chains rather soon. It would be wiser for the Government to seek collaboration instead of issuing ultimatums. All governments are born to die, but there is no wisdom in driving coffin nails into a perambulator. The Socialists should give their infant a fair chance.
I must in faitness make this admission. There are many men and women who deeply believe there will be no peace in the world until the brotherhood of the common man comes into being. In their opinion workers of a world striving not for riches but for a better standard of living can form a unity that will diminish nationalism, reduce rivalries and do away with war. The fact that Russia, Italy and Germany went from Socialism to Totalitarianism does not dismay them, for these countries had been weakened by previous misrule.
Down in their hearts these good people are faithful to the dream born in a herdsman’s shed and to the simple scripture of the poor. This philosophy has turned many thousands of votes toward the Socialists.
As a humble servant of Maclean’s readers I shall take them with me in the months ahead into His Majesty’s loyal opposition. There will be great scenes to describe and mighty events to explain. For more than ever the British Parliament will become the experimental laboratory of civilization.
It would be a great mistake for other nations to assume that British foreign policy will undergo a violent change, nor should Continued on page 48
Why Britain Went Left
Continued frx>m page 6
Americans accept Prof. Harold Laski’s semi-intellectual, semiadolescent outpourings at this stage as any more than human vanity and the flush of victory finding expression. Laski is Dirty chairman for one year, and will then give way to a successor, whereas Attlee, Bevin and Morrison will remain on the bridge.
To understand the trend of the Labor Government’s foreign policy it should
be remembered that war comes to Britain from across the Channel, not from across the Atlantic. A strong desire exists here to achieve democratic unity wfith the peoples and governments in Europe, but this does not mean with totalitarian governments, which all decent Britons abhor. British labor believes Russia is moving toward normal socialism and abandoning Communism, and that all Europe can attain a large measure of political and economic co-operation.
It is understandable that American business might see in this a threat of
! European economic isolation, but I I think it would be wise for both Canada and the U. S. to reserve their decision and be co-operative at this stage.
Having attended the first meeting of the new Parliament yesterday, I came away with the feeling that the now mighty Socialist Party has two choices —either to become the reincarnation of the old Liberal Party, and therefore representative of all sections of the I community, or to move toward everexpanding bureaucratic control, with totalitarianism, or political extinction, as the inevitable climax. For this reason I hope American isolationists I and British baiters will consider carefully before they use the Socialist triumph here as excuse for exploiting their cherished prejudices and thus strengthening the extremists’ hands here.
No one will deny that the existence of a Socialist Government, with a powerful parliamentary majority, holds many
Would Abolish Traps
The article “Fur Boom,” by Bruce McLeod, reads like an authentic piece of reporting, but it is amazing that the author does not appear to be in the least shocked by his revelations concerning the cruelty of trapping. The following sentence, for instance, is eloquent to any who have not hearts of stone: “Most traps are designed merely to hold the animal either until it starves or freezes to death, or until the trapper arrives to kill it.”
Are your readers so callous, so unimaginative and so devoid of the instinct of compassion that they can contemplate with equanimity the torture and terror of an animal (which might be the gentle beaver and not the “fierce” mink) slowly dying of pain, hunger and cold, its paw crushed between the jaws of a steel trap? It is well known that some animals escape by chewing or twisting off a foot, and that special devices may be used to prevent these self-mutilations. For instance the spring pole trap is arranged in such a manner that when sprung it is hoisted off the ground by the branch of the tree to which it is attached, the i animal remaining suspended in mid-air ! by its trapped paw. This form of ¡ trapping has not unfairly been com! pared to crucifixion.
And all this torture of millions of animals, year after year, is unnecessary, even if one admits that the providing of fur coats is a “necessity.” Because if different methods of trapping, combined with large-scale ranching, were used, nine tenths of the suffering would be eliminated — not to speak of the I fact that modern industry can provide I substitutes for fur which compare well ! in quality and appearance with real i fur. Admittedly, however, it will I require considerable readjustment of the fur trade, which will only be brought about by pressure of public j opinion.
I believe that a large number of your
potential dangers and undoubtedly future Empire relations as well as foreign relations are involved. There will be a struggle within the Party itself, between Attlee, Bevin and Morrison as realists and Cripps, Dalton and Laski as doctrinaires. Undoubtedly the doctrinaires dream of a left-wing autocracy, but the British public, which threw out Churchill, will be unlikely to accept dictatorship from second-raters.
My final word is: “Do not believe that Britain has gone or is going Communist; do not believe the British Government intends to become a vassal to Russia or any foreign power; do not believe this upheaval means a weakening of Empire ties or of friendship to America. This Government means well, and if it fails it will be because of its economic policy of nationalization and its inherent weakness in being a government founded on a sectional and class basis.”
readers, however glamorous they may find fur coats, will not be indifferent to the suffering when it is pointed out to them. To all such this Association extends a cordial invitation to join us in helping eventually to abolish the steel trap. A. F. Stevenson, president, Association for the Protection of Furbearing Animals, 163 Delaware Avenue, Toronto.
Grateful For Gancer Article
I feel that 1 should writ«* to you, letting you know how thankful I am for your article on Cancer, May 1 issue of Maclean’s Magazine.
It caused me to show my doctor a curious little growth near my right eye and nose, which 1 have had for some time. He cut it out 11 days ago. Today the report has come in, it was a skin cancer.
Words cannot tell you how thankful I am that it has been removed in time. I will need an examination every three months just to make sure that all is well.
I wonder if other readers have had the same experience.
Medical articles can do a lot of good for the public.
Thanking you and Dr. Bauer. —M. Fielder, La Gabelle, P.Q.
Dignity of Labor
“White Collar to Overalls”—that’s the best story I have read for a long time in your popular magazine.
There is real point in it; those out of employment who read it will realize there is real dignity in working in overalls, compared to being shabby genteel, as are most office hands with soft muscles and indifferent appetite.
lam sure it would be a good idea to run that story again some time in the future. There is encouragement, inspiration and genuine mirth in different phases of the experience. W. ,J. Thompson, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.